Building a new folk culture

Last week I was the guest speaker at a joint meeting of the Trinity College Dublin Literary and Environmental Societies. I was speaking at their request about the intersection of myth, feminism and ecology in my writing, and as I always do, I was stressing the value of our native mythology and folk traditions, and the way that they emphasise the need to live in balance and harmony with the land. Afterwards, a couple of students asked questions which stayed with me for a good while afterwards, because they’re right at the heart of my work in the world. Read More

The storied days

There is something about the all-too-fleeting days between Samhain and Winter Solstice. Something about the sudden sharp shock of early-morning air, about the mists rising from the surface of a thousand scattered Connemara lochs. The bog grasses have transformed themselves from a tired green to a rich russet red, and the great black clouds pile in from the mountains to the north, smothering skies that are all shot through with rainbows. Read More

The mythology of women working together

One of my favourite stories in Irish mythology is called ‘The Only Jealousy of Emer’ – the Emer in question being the wife of the great warrior (but not so great husband) Cú Chulainn. I love it because it wonderfully subverts the usual ‘betrayed wife’ narrative, and the other cultural narratives which (even to this day) suggest that women can never really trust each other, but can only ever be competitors. Read More

On calling, and the lost fairy-tale art of apprenticeship

All of my retreats and online courses, and much of my writing, in some way involve an exploration of the theme of ‘calling’. Calling is neither ‘fate’ nor ‘destiny’ and, to me, has little to do with the job you do — though it can have, of course, if you happen to fulfill whatever purpose you believe you have in life primarily through your occupation (this is arguably ‘vocation’, a subset of ‘calling’). But for many people, their sense of purpose is expressed in ways of being in the world rather than ways of doing.

Read More

The lure of the woods

‘Now I am traversed by bridle paths, under the seal of sun and shade … I live in great density … Shelter lures me. I slump down into the thick foliage … In the forest, I am my entire self. Everything is possible in my heart just as it is in the hiding places in ravines. Thickly wooded distance separates me from moral codes and cities.’

René Ménard, ‘Le Livre des Arbres’, quoted & translated in Gaston Bachelard’s ‘The Poetics of Space’

Read More